When you miss the green with an approach shot you will often find the ball nestled in high, swirling rough. This presents a complex problem. The club must be swung hard enough to cut through a lot of deep grass before reaching the ball, yet not so hard that the ball is knocked way past the hole, or over the green.
I had experimented with many ways to hit this shot—from using a loose grip and letting the club-head do the work, to exploding it like a sandblast—but I was never satisfied. Then, at the U.S. Open last June, Art Wall taught me an extremely effective method. Hold on to the club very firmly with the left hand. The right hand should also grip the club tightly, but not quite as strongly as the left. Keeping the blade slightly open, take the club straight up by breaking the wrists very sharply at the start of the backswing. Then come down right on top of the ball. You should feel that you are hitting the shot with the right hand. The firm left hand will keep you from breaking your wrists too sharply at impact. Use a slow, almost lazy, swing. Take the clubhead all the way back and all the way through, but never speed up the swing. The ball will actually pop out of the rough cleanly—as it has done at left—while the clubhead continues into the grass.
This shot can be played high or low, and is most effective from 20 feet to 30 yards. Your lie in the grass and the pin position dictate how high to hit the ball. For a high shot, play the ball more off the left foot. For a low one play it more off the right.